Voice of God
(Please listen to Craig’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
When I was growing up as a pastor’s kid and having this expectation of perfection, I think what I’ve, what I’ve realized is that the enemy loves to bring lies around the things, all sorts of those things that are kind of the cornerstones of what life with Christ is supposed to really be like. And so for me, one of the cornerstones of my faith is vulnerability and honesty. And the very lie the enemy spoke to me is that I’m not allowed to be vulnerable, I’m not allowed to be honest. That somehow, because of expectations for perfection, that wasn’t available to me. And that led down to this pit that feels like no one understands, no one can understand. I’m gonna, you know, ruin my dad’s ministry or something, if I am honest with people that I’m not perfect. That somehow a platform means that you can’t be…You have to be perfect and no one can know that you’re not, otherwise the platform breaks down. And how often we see people that get on a platform and then live with that lie that they have be perfect. Ultimately, that leads to like all this interior distraction that happens. And this is the lie that I think the enemy speaks to all of us, because all of us have a platform of some sort, right? All of us have a sphere of influence, whatever that looks like.
There’s this lie that the enemy gives us that we’re not allowed to be vulnerable or otherwise we’ll somehow wreck what ministry looks like, what being a model looks like and being a picture of God’s love in the earth. And when the opposite is true, right? Like, Christ says, “When you’re weak, I’m strong.” The very, the very thing that people need to hear is that God loves us in the midst of our imperfection. That in this thing that I did, or am doing, God’s showing up and ministering to me. And the great thing that we have available to us in God is that we have an unconditional source of love, right? That’s constantly giving it to us. That’s the foundation on which we can also give and receive love with people. But my primary point of health and thriving in life is not receiving and giving love with people, it’s actually from my Heavenly Father. So when I have that security that comes with Him, that’s what empowers me be vulnerable and honest. And that’s actually what opens us up to, I think, actually receive love from people, right? Because if you have this facade up, and you’re telling people, here’s who I really am, and you’re not that person, anytime someone says “I love this about you, or This is amazing that you’re this way, or that you do this,” the question in the back of your mind is always, “Yeah, but if you knew this about me, you’d never say that. You would never feel that way if you knew this about me. You wouldn’t even want to be around me.” But when you break that facade down, and you’re fully open and honest with people, and someone says, “Hey, I love this about you,” you can actually receive that as another way that God is loving us through people, right? You can receive that real relationship with people and real affection. And when someone doesn’t give it, when they’re when they try to tear us down, you can have the security in God like, Yeah, you’re right. I’m not perfect, but that’s okay. God still loves me.
So I grew up like a normal pastor’s kid going to church every Wednesday, every Sunday, a lot of nights. Even more than that during the week. And there’s things that come with that, for better or worse. There’s a lot of things that come for better, you know. There’s a sense of calling up into an embodiment of faith that I think can be positive. My dad and mom always did a great job of trying not to put expectation on us in the midst of that. Dad always modeled a vibrant faith of his own. He wasn’t just talking about God on Sundays, but I saw him living it on Monday. Getting into middle school and high school, I think that pressure to be perfect became too much for me. On the outside, it looked like I was a, you know, a good Christian kid, that was vibrant, and my words lined up with all that. But on the inside, I was just cratering from the pressure, and trying to figure out how to live up to the expectation of perfection, and not doing it. And what does that mean for me? And so on the inside, I was just a wreck every day.
I kind of entered into this big separation of my interior and exterior life, as if those things could be different. And I could live, you know, fake on the outside and on the inside, have thoughts, have sin, have beliefs and perspectives. The things I would say and do in my car, or in my room, were totally different than the things I did at school. I was kind of becoming this–never knowing, knowing that that wasn’t fully okay. But still living like maybe that’s just normal, maybe that’s just life. Maybe that’s what faith is, you know, is the kind of this dichotomy, this separation between the two, and not feeling like I ever had a safe place to talk about that stuff. I kind of just wrestled with it on my own for years and years.
I get to college, and I’m still living that out. I start to get plugged in leading worship, playing guitar, and then got to my sophomore year, and I just…Summer leading up to it and Fall semester, my sophomore year in college, I was dating a great girl, I had all this cool stuff on the exterior, and I was just in the pit on the inside. And so I got to a point to where everything was broken down. I was ready to just give it all up. And I didn’t know, I kind of started from this place of like, okay, God, I’m gonna give You one shot here. I think I, under this kind of belief, I’ve given Him a shot my whole life, to kind of show me how to live and how to make life what it should be. And then so, I get done playing guitar at this campus-wide worship service. And I’m sitting on the front pew, last service of the fall semester, and they had brought in this really great speaker, who I loved, to kind of wrap up the semester this really cool way, and I can’t hear a word that he’s saying. And so I’m giving God this one last shot to show up. And in that moment, I prayed this really not eloquent prayer, but maybe the first honest prayer of my life. And what I said is, “God, I don’t know what to do. But I know You know what to do. Tell me what to do. And I’ll do it.” That’s what I said. This kind of launched a last ditch effort. And in that moment, I heard the voice of God in a way that I didn’t know was possible. And what He said to me, clear as day, “Craig, it needs to be just Me and you for a while.”
As it so often happens with God when He speaks, revelation comes with that. I knew what He meant when He said it. And what He was saying is, “Craig, you’ve been seeking affirmation and affection in the world around you. And I’m inviting you into a lifestyle of finding that in Me. And what what’s required about that is having a season where you just make space away from all the rest of that stuff. And you learn how to fill that space with Me.” And so that summer I made…I didn’t hang out with a soul. I woke up every day, I didn’t, I didn’t work. –That was a hard conversation with my parents. Trying to convince them like, yeah, I’m not supposed to work all summer. I’m just supposed to spend time with God.–And so that’s what I did. So they let me have that room and all summer I’d just wake up the beginning of the day and say, “Okay, God, what are we doing today?” And I’d get my journal out, worship, and the rest of the day would just be His. I really learned what it was to hear His voice. I really learned what it was to get healing and freedom in His presence and in His nearness. I learned what it was to not live for affirmation from people, but just affirmation from Him. And I found out that His voice, He’s always speaking, I found out that His Word is powerful and true, and meaningful. Where I’d always seen it as this, I should, it was a should for me, right? Like, I should read the Bible. I should pray. I should worship. I should be a good person. God started to shift that should to want. It’s like I want to read, I want to spend time, because He was changing my life through all these different avenues. And I just started separating myself from seeking affirmation from the world, and started actually seeking that in Him.
And in that moment, I prayed this really not eloquent prayer, but maybe the first honest prayer of my life. And what I said is, “God, I don’t know what to do. But I know You know what to do. Tell me what to do. And I’ll do it.”
As I’m making space for God to fill, He just would show up. And so it’s like, God I’ve got to have 30 minutes. Instead of watching this show or doing this thing, what if I just make some space? Like, what would You say? And what would You do? And what would You want me to do and this sense of His nearness just became like my source of life, you know? My source of direction and clarity and identity and guide for my relationships. And as I moved into doing more ministry and more work, getting married and having kids, and all the rest, it has become this foundation for what it means to really, like, live the Christian life. It’s the idea that God’s not distant. God is close. He’s full of love for us. That rhythm of meeting with God just has carried me through so many seasons.
I had this plan for myself building this traveling worship ministry, which is just kind of more of my background. And the Lord said, “I just want you to serve your dad.” And so I started with him in 2012 and started traveling every weekend leading worship. And in that season, I had this amazing opportunity and conversation with him about, what would it look like to actually resource other people to have a tangible, daily connection with God? And what if we help people start their day that way? That was kind of one of the big transformative things for me, was not just meeting with God, but actually beginning my day in the foundation that He’s near to me. Beginning my day in the realization that, like Scripture says, that His voice is still and small. That used to make me so mad. It’s like “God, I want to hear your voice above all the other voices in my life. The world’s so noisy and loud. Like, why isn’t Your voice big and loud? Why is it still and small? I don’t get it.” And, and I had this revelation, like this idea that He said to me, “Craig, I’m so close to you, it would be weird if I shouted.”
The veil was torn, top to bottom and the presence of God made available to all of us. And now, Scripture says, that we’re the temple for the Holy Spirit. We’re the temple for God’s presence. So God is in us and with us. So His voice can be still and small. But in the midst of that, realizing, I need to tune my ear to That voice every day so that I have that sense of closeness and connection, and I’m able to hear His voice or feel a tug from Him on my heart, in the midst of the noise and busyness of the day. So what would it look like to help people spend their first 15 minutes alone with God every day? Even just 15 minutes can be so transformative in people’s lives. And what if that had worship and reading and prayer for every day, so that we’re not the center of our time alone with God, but through worship, we can start our time alone with God, with God at the center, His character, His goodness, and how much freedom comes from that. And then a devotional thought that would just stir up your affections for God, and that ultimately culminating and guided prayer so that, you know, my writing isn’t the point with this daily devotional, but actually a conversation with God is the point. So you walk out of every one of those actually connecting with God, talking with Him, and Him speaking directly into your situation in your life. So we started that resource back in 2015.
I remember the first email was going to go out, I was sitting there at my desk, and Rachel, my wife is next to me. And another moment of just hearing God’s voice, I was sitting there and was like, this is terrible. All I’d ever written to that point was like term papers and music. I was like, I don’t know how to write a devotional. Most devotionals is are like compilations of someone’s life work of writing and I’m like, starting off trying to crank out something every day. I was like, this is a terrible idea. And Rachel, she just, she’s knows me so well, she’s like, “Hey, you should just take a minute and pray and just see what God says.” And so I put my head down on my desk. I was just like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. What do You say?” And He spoke really clearly to my heart in that moment, “If you, if you write this I’ll bring My people to it,” is what He said. And it a promise He’s fulfilled till now. That first year, we had like, over a million people visit the website. It’s crazy. No email, no social media, not telling a soul about it from us, just like, word of mouth. There have been so many testimonies of like, as people would just make space for God to fill, that He would just show up and transform individuals. So many stories of family transformation, as people would just share it with their kids or whatever that were far from God. And some start having like church staff do it together, and then whole churches do it. Now we have like hundreds of thousands of people all over the world that are doing this resource and are giving and supporting it.
God is just moving in unbelievable ways. It’s just amazing how He fulfills His promises. So, we need God’s presence to guide us and His sense of nearness. And like, what if that was what Christian life was founded on was, you know, not a Sunday celebration, but a daily personal relationship. Then we’re celebrating on Sundays the fruit of that relationship, not that [Sundays] being our only touchpoint with God and other stuff. So yes, that sense of believing in Him has been new, but it’s been really powerful and transformative to believing that He’s going to do far more than I can ask or imagine like His Word says. There’s something powerful that happens, if you, even right now in this moment, can figure out where you’re striving for perfection and lay that down before the feet of Jesus and receive His love. His unconditional love, through vulnerability and honesty. Then join with that belief or that perspective that God has joined with that love and receive that for yourself, and let that wash through you. Whatever that looks like in that moment, let that bring healing and transformation. We can live into this opportunity, this life that God’s made available to us.
To me, it all goes back to that moment. Sitting on the front pew of Second Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and just praying, “God I don’t know what to do, but I know you know what to do, tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” And that honesty, there being no need for eloquence, and Him speaking — “it just needs to be Me and you for a while.”